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MADISON - Bret Bielema caused another job vacancy on the University of Wisconsin’s coaching staff but unlike his quick departure, this coaching change won’t take effect for another three weeks.
Co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash, whose defense played a major role in Wisconsin winning a third straight conference championship, has been named Arkansas' defensive coordinator, but will remain with the Wisconsin program through its appearance in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.
"I am excited to welcome Chris to our staff," Bielema said in a statement. "In the last three years working together, I gained a great respect for the way Chris teaches the game and develops student-athletes. I've followed his career for a long time, and his knowledge of the way we run our program and specifically the defense will be valuable for us moving forward in our transition. Chris helped us improve drastically in our pass defense at Wisconsin where his defenses consistently ranked in the top 25 nationally in all the major categories."
Ash came to UW in 2010 from Iowa State and spent the last two seasons as UW's defensive coordinator.
This past season, Wisconsin led the Big Ten and ranked third in the NCAA with a three-and-out percentage of 41.72, and the Badgers' 5.23 three and outs per game topped the Big Ten and was fourth in the country. The Badgers' defense was 13th in the NCAA in total defense and tied for 19th in the country in scoring defense. Wisconsin also ranked 21st in the nation in third-down conversion defense in addition to being third in the conference in sacks and ranked 21st in the NCAA in rush defense and pass efficiency defense and 23rd in the country in pass defense.
Defensive backs Devin Smith and Marcus Cromartie both ranked in the top seven in the Big Ten in passes defended while Smith also tied for third in the conference in interceptions. The Badgers also produced two of the top nine sack artists in the conference, with defensive end Brendan Kelly tied for seventh with an average of 0.45 sacks per game and defensive end Tyler Dippel's 0.42 tied for ninth. Linebacker Chris Borland tied for third in the Big Ten in forced fumbles and fourth in the conference in fumble recoveries, and linebacker Mike Taylor ranked fifth in the Big Ten with an average of 1.15 tackles for loss per game.
Ash primary recruited the state of Illinois for Wisconsin and was the lead recruiter for Troy Fumagalli and Jack Keeler while helping UW and linebackers coach Andy Buh recruit Garret Dooley. All three have said they are solid commits to Wisconsin, both Fumagalli and Dooley have stated that they might take other visits.